Safety Flooring in water play areas and aquatic environments
30. June 2022
Safety is important in the surfacing design around water in outdoor and indoor areas. Slipping can lead to a fall with serious consequences, especially since users – children, adults, or the elderly – only wear bathing suits and are therefore practically unprotected.
For this reason, “in-situ” wetpour (poured-in-place) rubber flooring is the most widely used in proximity or directly in the water, such as: Splash Parks, Water Parks, Public or residential pool decks and Spas.
The technical and aesthetic requirements for these environments are complex and varied:
- The materials used must resist the aggressive action of chlorine, salts, algaecides and other oxidising or disinfectant chemical substances used to reduce the growth of microorganisms or maintain the pH of the water.
- The materials cannot contain toxic substances to be compliant with the standards.
- If it is sea water, they must also resist the salts and minerals dissolved in it.
- The materials must limit the proliferation of biological germs and microorganisms.
- The flooring must be slip resistant to prevent falls for people who normally use it barefoot, but it must not be excessively abrasive and cause scratches in the event of a fall.
- Barefoot also requires a comfortable floor temperature to avoid burns, considering that these environments are in climatic zones with usually high solar radiation.
- They must be highly resistant to UV radiation, without degrading the material or causing excessive discoloration.
- They must be carried out «in-situ» to avoid joints and have a homogeneous and safe result without trip hazards.
- In some cases, an absorbent layer must be included for fall height protection.
- Have an adequate degree of flammability.
- Provide good adhesion on waterproofed concrete or similar substrates.
- Enable designs with a wide range of colours.
These applications may require a waterproof or permeable system depending if they are permanently submerged in water (for example a swimming pool or fountain) or in which the water is evacuated to be reabsorbed by a drainage system, whether it is later filtered and recycled for the same or for other uses.
The solutions we use at CONICA usually have a structure in one or two layers, depending on the fall height to be protected. We always recommend a primer to ensure adhesion to the substrate and as a top coating we use a non-slip, two-component polyurethane sealant that is resistant to both chlorine and salt water. Some variants will also reduce the spread of germs and biological growth of moss, mould, fungus, etc.
For impermeable solutions we add two coats of a coating and sprinkle with a granulated EPDM of 0.5 to 1.5 mm.
It is important to think of accessibility to all users as the prime functionality. Any user must be able to move on and approach the different equipment and this applies to outdoor dry playgrounds but also to water and splash parks, so let us remind you of the requirements.
As a summary to achieve good accessibility we need to:
- Choose appropriate materials and techniques that meets the relevant standards and regulations about accessibility and at the same time reduce the risk of severe injuries from falls.
- Have routes that are wide enough to allow wheelchair users and parents with strollers to move around.
- Ensure smooth transitions from surrounding areas to the play area and from one type of surfacing to another for people using mobility aids.
For decades playgrFor decades playgrounds had no safety surfacing and as a result kids were injured quite often on them. The introduction of cushioned surfaces reduced liability and limited the serious injuries while promoting play and learning to fall without serious consequences.
Some people think that nowadays we are overprotecting our children, we can only disagree. At the indoor and outdoor dry playgrounds level, we have already improved to reasonable levels of safety but if you look at some waterparks or splash parks today, situation is still not as good. A lot of them are still using just concrete maybe coated at best with some colour but it is still very abrasive, hard to fall on and slippery.
The recently approved standard EN 17232:2020 with title ” Water play equipment and features – Safety requirements, test methods and operational requirements“, when implemented by owners of these water play areas will help to resolve these deficiencies.
This standard set requirements for shock absorbing floors like those of dry playgrounds when this absorption cannot be achieved by the water depth. It also sets slip resistance requirements according to EN 13451-1 and other requirements to avoid puddles, to make it easy to clean, to avoid impairing the water quality and to do not promote the growth of microorganisms.
At CONICA we introduced at the beginning of 2020 two new waterpark safety surfacing systems and materials for both permeable and impermeable water applications that fully address all the requirements of EN17232:2020, including two topcoats variants with additives to prevent growth of microorganisms. Contact your regional sales manager if you want to use these systems or to know more about them.
Play around water is one of the most exciting activities for children, creating a combined sense of adventure, refreshment, and fun. This explains the tremendous success of this kind of spaces that are having an extraordinary growth Worldwide even during the COVID-19 temporary disruptions.
Make sure you use the latest standards for your waterparks, this will ensure safe and fun time for you and your children.